Twenty years after reunification, the differences in attitudes to “career women” between the former communist east and democratic west remain stark. A study presented this week in the eastern city of Leipzig found that mixing work, marriage and children was considered a much more natural life to women in the former east than the west.
Women in the east were more likely to have husbands who supported them in their choice to work and did not want a “housewife” as a partner once children arrived, the study found.
The report, “The Full Life! Women's Careers in Germany,” was compiled by the Interior Ministry on the request of Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. The data came from online surveys of 655 men in eastern and western Germany as well as figures drawn from previous studies.
Every second working woman in eastern Germany (53 percent) whose youngest child was under the age of 15 worked full-time in 2008. That was more than double the rate in the western states, where 22 percent worked full-time.
“The view in the study makes clear: the great majority of women in the eastern German states have made a new start without great fuss and despite structural problems,” de Maizière said.
Better child care in the east was an important factor, the study concluded, but different ideas about the role of women were also significant. Just 16 percent of east German women aged between 17 and 29 were ready to give up work for their children, compared with 37 percent in western Germany.
In the communist German Democratic Republic, family planning polices, child care and notional equality meant that working women and mothers became more common than was the case in the west.
The share of households in which each partner contributes roughly the same amount to the household income is nearly twice as high in the east as the west – 44.5 percent compared with 27.9 percent.
Equal partnerships between men and women are considered normal in the east, the study concluded. By comparison, nearly a quarter of young men in the west cling on to a conservative image of themselves as the “family breadwinner” and the woman as the “housewife” – twice the proportion of men in the east.